The Word of God Changes Us – Martin Luther
At our church, Harvest Christian Fellowship, Pastor Greg has started a series called World Changers. It is an in-depth look at Hebrews 11, the hall of faith chapter in the Bible. Through this series we get to study many different men and some women mentioned in the Bible who had great faith. The Bible mentions so many world changers, which we get excited to study, and we also know of countless other world changers throughout church history. I love the fact that God uses ordinary people and does extraordinary things. Every Wednesday we will be spending a few hundred words talking about a world changer in church history.
Martin Luther 1483–1546
October 31 is known by many as Halloween but it is also a day called Reformation Day. It is a day that the church remembers what took place almost 500 years ago with a man who was strong in his conviction about what the Bible says.
It was a time when there was change in the air. Kingdoms were becoming more defined and power was being distributed from the church to the state. God had Martin Luther born at the right time, 1483, in Germany. His father desired for Martin to study Canon Law but he endured a thunderstorm where he vowed to enter the monastery if God saved him from that danger. In 1518, he was appointed as professor of philosophy at the University of Wittenberg.
Luther was taught with the mindset that God gives grace to those who do their best but Luther could never come to terms with what his best was, and he was constantly trying to be his best for salvation. This was a plague and a terror to him. He never was at peace with God and would agonize over his salvation. It was when Martin Luther was reading Romans 1:17 that it grabbed his attention and the Holy Spirit directed the Word of God to break free the bondage of his sin. He realized that there is justification for our sins which is found in Jesus Christ alone.
October 31, 1517, was the defining day, where he nailed his ninety-five theses to the door on Castle Church, which was a response to the abuses that were being done by the church. This action was like writing a blog post or putting an article in the newspaper. Though Martin Luther never wanted to be separate from the church, he desired for the church to be reformed. This action would lead to many other moments in Martin Luther’s life, which would lead to the Protestant Reformation.
What was the impact?
We must not overlook the impact of the reformation. Through the reformation, the protestant denomination formed and we can see such great fruit from faithful men and women who have been impacted by this world changer. We must remember that Martin Luther was just a man, as he himself remembered; he said on his death bed, “We are beggars: this is true.” He had flaws just like anyone but he stood upon God’s grace, which we all need. There are many theological differences we may have with Martin Luther, but what we can appreciate are some of the following important theological views that grew from the reformation. Though these are nothing new, the light was shown on them while the world was dark, and we are grateful:
- The Word of God is the authority.
At this time there were limits to who could read the Bible, and therefore understand it. It was written in Latin and only those who were educated were able to read and understand it. Also, copies of the Bible were hard to obtain as there was no mass printing of the Bible and each copy was handwritten, which made it very expensive to own. Martin Luther translated the New Testament into his common language, German, for the people to be able to read it and understand it.
During this time the church had more authority than Scripture, but the reformation looked to God’s Word with authority. Martin Luther valued God’s Word and viewed it with authority and desired for the right view of Scripture to come into place. Carl Trueman, in his book on Luther, says, “The Word addresses us at the core of our being; learning it is never a purely cerebral or rote exercise. It grips our souls, drives us to despair and lifts us up to the very portals of heaven.”
- Salvation is by God’s grace through faith.
This was nothing new, as it is stated in the Bible (Ephesians 2:8–10), but because of the weight of the teaching of the church, many people thought that one must do good for salvation instead of being justified by faith (Galatians 2:16). The church had been drifting away from what the Bible taught, and indulgences (a way to reduce punishment for sin) were being sold and offered.
- Christ is exalted.
Salvation is not earned nor given by the church. Salvation was accomplished by Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. Martin Luther’s emphasis of the work of Christ was a like a breath of fresh air in a stale room.
Today our church and the other protestant churches would not exist if it were not for what the Lord did through Martin Luther almost 500 years ago. Though this statement might be a little presumptuous, the United States of America would not be a country founded upon protestant convictions had it not been for the Protestant Reformation. Luther was a world changer!
For More Reading:
There are countless writings on Martin Luther, but here are a few suggestions:
- Luther on the Christian Life by Carl R. Trueman
- Martin Luther: Confessor of Faith by Robert Kolb
For young readers:
- Martin Luther: Reformation Fire (Trailblazers) by Catherine Mackenzie